The offseason addition of the All-Star, All-Defensive, and one-time champion, Jrue Holiday, has left a slight shadow over the All-Defensive, Derrick White, but his preseason performances have given him an argument as to why he should be a Boston Celtics starter next season.
Why does White merit a starting spot for the Boston Celtics?
There have been many stand-out performers during the preseason for the Boston Celtics with Payton Pritchard showcasing his contract extension worth, new arrival Kristaps Porzingis throwing down dunks and shooting consistently from beyond the arc, and Dalano Banton showing his aggression when driving to the rim, but one name hasn’t been talked about enough.
White has looked incredible on both ends of the court during his two preseason appearances against the Philadelphia 76ers, most notably his defensive contributions in their second meeting. During that game, White put up an impressive stat line of 11 points, three rebounds, four assists, three blocks, and one steal, all from only 17 minutes on the court. This performance showcases why White made the All-Defensive second team following his incredible 2022-23 season, as well as making a strong argument as to why he deserves a starting role.
The most notable stat was the three blocks that White managed throughout the game, but after last season, that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise as the guard ended the 2022-23 season as the joint 23rd-highest in total blocks — and as a six-foot-four guard, that is insanely impressive.
NBA analysts seem to be divided when it comes to how good White is as ESPN has left him out of their top 100 list, while Bleacher Report has him ranked at No. 68 on their top 100 list. After how good White was last season, it’s surprising to see him left out of ESPN’s rankings as he averaged 12.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 0.7 steals, and 0.9 blocks, displaying his offensive and defensive capabilities whilst also participating in some unforgettable moments; most notable being his late winner against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
If Derrick White is a starter, then do the Boston Celtics bench Jrue Holiday or Al Horford?
Since the summer acquisition of fellow All-Defensive guard, Holiday, the argument has been varied as to who should start for the Celtics next season. There is a strong case for Holiday to get the starting spot but, if White is to make the starting five, a question then arises, “Should Holiday or Al Horford get dropped to the bench?”
Of course, this is dependent on the opposition as some teams will require a double-big lineup of Horford and Porzingis, and some will demand a small-ball lineup featuring both Holiday and White. No Celtics fan will want to see Holiday dropped to the bench regularly, seeing as he is a new acquisition and a one-time champion, so the option of an All-Defensive backcourt duo is an enticing one.
Although the acquisition of Holiday poses a threat to White’s starting spot, he was excited to see him arrive in Boston. Here is what he had to say on media day when asked about the trade.
"“Obviously, it was big news, adding Jrue Holiday is going to do a lot of things for our team. I mean, through his whole career he’s done so much, he’s a champion, he’s done a lot of things so adding him? I was super excited.”"
All Celtics fans love Horford and, although he is now 37 years of age, he still appears to be playing at his prime. As previously mentioned, when the opposing team boasts a strong frontcourt, the need for a double-big lineup, featuring both Horford and Porzingis, is crucial. Yes, White deserves regular starting minutes, but that doesn’t mean either player has to suffer because of it.
Holiday and Horford both understand that the primary goal this season is to win a championship, and I’m sure everyone on that Celtics roster is aware of how deep the talent is, so rotation, and occasionally missing out on a starting spot, is a necessity to be successful this season. Even if they don’t get as many starting minutes as they might have expected – if White were to start regularly – the prospect of ending the season with an NBA championship ring will undoubtedly keep them both motivated and happy to be playing in Beantown this season.
I’m aware that the idea of either Holiday or Horford being given a bench role seems borderline sacrilegious, but given the wealth of talent on this Celtics roster, rotating out some star names on occasion is unavoidable. Having too many players worthy of a place in the starting five is a damn good problem to have, and a “problem” that Joe Mazzulla with have to face every time he is selecting his starting lineups.
The starting five conundrum that followed the Holiday trade has been one worth pondering, and I think White has certainly made a strong case for himself to be considered for the starting lineup going into next season.